Thursday, 28 February 2013

Slow News Week

It has been what I believe is called a 'slow news week,' as will be demonstrated by the video below of 'What Andy and I Did For Entertainment' this evening, but that is a delight to come.

So, this week the weather has been very cold. Bitter. Makes the eyes sting and the ears whistle and the noses freeze and the toeses curl up. Where are you, Sunshine???

I have been tutoring, and today found out that the colour of a chicken's egg is closely correlated to the colour of its ears. So on returning from work, I nipped outside to check and indeed, Daisy of the cream coloured eggs has cream coloured ears. Primrose was wearing earmuffs, however, so I couldn't assess the colour of her ears.

'They are blue,' says Primrose. 'Which is why I am wearing earmuffs, you idiot.'

We have been testing out veggie recipes and indulging in chit chat about cafe plans. I have been getting slightly obsessed with pinning down a really good name. I have been covering sheets of paper with variations of veg related words arranged in witty and alliterative slogans and puns. Then Andy said, 'Why don't we just call it Much Malarkey?'
And of course, he is right!

I have been selected as a donor for World Book Night 2013. This will be my third consecutive year and my book to give away in March is Rose Tremain's 'The Road Home.' I'll have 20 free copies to distribute. It is always a good thing to do.

I have applied for and received three free tickets to be in the audience for a TV recording of Jo Brand's new quiz show. This will take place next Tuesday at the local TV studios and will hopefully be an entertaining freebie evening out.

Andy and I also have tickets for next Thursday to go and see some musical thing which is basically all of Gilbert and Sullivan's operettas squished into the space of an hour and a half. Several years ago I went to see the Reduced Shakespeare Company perform all of Shakespeare's plays in an hour and a half and it was hilarious! I am hoping this production will be equally so.

The clematis by the front door is sprouting greenery.

And finally, this is what Andy and I did this evening. Oh, how the time flies by!

Sunday, 24 February 2013

To Fu or not To Fu...That is the Quornstion.

Today, Andy and I decided - well, it was Andy's decision actually so him being mad for once, and not me- that we are not going to use meat substitutes in our vegetarian extravaganza delights.

And I think he is right. I mean, if you want a sausage, eat a sausage and not a vegetarian substitute that is pretending to be a sausage. Unless it is a Glamorgan sausage of course, which is basically cheese and should be embraced as cheese that is ironically sausage shaped.

And if you want chicken fillet, eat chicken fillet and not quorn that has been shaped and cut to look like chicken fillet. Unless they are the kind of chicken fillets with which ladies use to pad out their lady bosoms for pneumatic effect. Which are equally scary and also will serve no purpose in our establishment.

(And whilst we are straying briefly into talk of the fabric of the cafe, rather than the food, I have in mind to make some cross-stitch embroidery pictures of a fruit 'n' veggie type nature (possibly comedy - I mean, how entertaining would a comedy carrot be?!) to hang upon the walls; and I also think Andy should draw some comedy hen pictures to hang also thusly. We are still wrangling over napkin colours though.)

And if you want something that looks like mince, you might as well eat, well...mince. The variety of beans and pulses out there are too many to substitute with some dubious-looking granula faux meat product. Why bother?

And although I do like quorn, and do eat it on occasion, I will not tolerate tofu. Might as well eat bits of sponge. And I don't mean delicious, light and fluffy sponge of the cake variety. I mean sponge of the bath time with the rubber duck variety. Oh, I have tried tofu, but it does nothing for me whatsoever. Could be the texture, could be that no matter what you cook it with it still tastes of old bath sponge. Whatever, tofu there shall be none.

To this end, we have been looking for a recipe for moussaka that does not use use veggie mince. And we have found one, which has been added to the experimental recipe list. The veggie burger tested yesterday was v. good indeed, and we think that serving veggie burgers in a brioche bun is definitely the way to go..., I know what some of you are thinking. You are thinking, 'Well, Denise and Andy...if you want a burger why don't you just have a burger?'

And you are quite right!

And as soon as I can come up with a smart Alec answer, I'll be right back at ya!

(P.S I need at this point to make an apology to long time Much Malarkey Manor resident, Olly, because I happen to know that one of her pet dislikes is people posting photos of their food on their blogs. Sorry Olly! Hope you understand that it is all in the name of research and that you are hanging on in there. And that when we are open for business, you shall receive a personal invitation for a free meal a deux for your patience, fortitude and support and for sharing a birthday avec moi, the hostess with the mostess!)

Saturday, 23 February 2013


Following a lunchtime visit to a vegetarian cafe, and making covert business notes in our minds because the tables were too small on which to spread out and make notes in a proper fashion, here is what we learned today:

1) have slightly bigger tables

2) have matching furniture and not furniture which appears to have been sourced from various skips. Now, whilst we appreciated this cafe's idea of recycling and whilst the idea of having variety in size, shapes and styles of tables and chairs seems quaint and quirky, if you are going to do this you need to at least paint the assorted mish mash of chairs and tables the same colour AND make sure your tables don't wobble under the pressure of a cappuccino (and I mean a coffee here, and not a, hang on, that's a capuchin...scrap the monkey comment.)

3) make sure quiches DON'T have soggy bottoms and DO have cooked middles. And that a green salad constitutes more than two slices of tomato, one slice of onion and two pieces of raw courgette.

4) utilise your space wisely - don't have a massive display cabinet that takes up an area of at least four seating spaces and appears to hold nothing more than many, many identical boxes of speciality teas. And if you are going to have a display cabinet, make sure people can reach it to see what is inside without having to scramble over two diners in order to do so.

5) DO NOT, under ANY circumstances, decorate walls that are within slopping distance of diners with wallpaper. Paint. That's what one needs. Easy to apply, easy to maintain, easy to scrape veggie lasagne from. Especially if space is tight and a diner (moi, for example) might find herself squished against a wallpapered wall with barely room to swing a fork.

6) have fresh, bakery-type cooking smells ALWAYS as background ambience. It took me a while to realise what was missing about this place, and what it was, despite their claim of cooking everything fresh on site every day, was that I couldn't smell those home cooked smells. See it, taste it, SMELL IT for the whole gastronomic experience, that's what I say.

7) ...and whilst we are on ambience, a little bit of background music is good, in order that diners can indulge in small talk and not have their conversations listened in on, or indeed have overhear other diners' conversations which can, on occasion, be a little unsavoury/ personal/ boring.

Other than that, there was a nice selection of cakes and pastries on offer, the menu was varied and simple if a little on the uninspiring side, and the staff were polite.

We also realised we need to sell the vegetarian food idea in a way that goes beyond the usual (and sadly unflattering) stereotype of weedy crustiness, dangly beads, sandals and raffia skirts. We want to create a place that is vegetarian but doesn't feel vegetarian and where people have good food and don't realise it is all vegetarian until half an hour after they leave and someone says, 'Hey! There were no sausages!'

Vegetarian recipe experiments this week include : caramelised onion tarte tatin and ratatouille gougere (yum!), and this afternoon Andy begins his quest for our signature veggie burger. This will go with the brioche burger buns that are currently proving in the fridge. And tomorrow I am on the soup trail to go find a vegetable soup to go with the oaty wholemeal loaf Andy made on Wednesday.

And on the way home, we stopped at a local art gallery and on impulse (see how bohemian we are becoming!) we purchased a painting by a local artist which was of the church I grew up with and Andy and I got married in!

Friday, 22 February 2013

My Space...

...where I have been hiding all day, with occasional forays to the wee shop (bathroom) and the cuppa tea shop (the kitchen) because it has been freezing cold all day with horizontal wind blown snow and only crazy people go out in weather like this...brrrrr!

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Easy Tart!

I had fully planned to be veggie cooking a-go-go today, but forgot I had several errands to run, so experimenting in the kitchen did not get much beyond this...

...but it tasted jolly good and contained no horse whatsoever!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

A Veggie Venture

Out into the Kent countryside today 1) because the weather was gorgeous (four days on the trot - it's been a veritable February heat wave...well, sunwave...okay, it's been nice and warm), 2) because we were on a mission to visit a farm shop / cafe and 3) because it was Andy's day off and we like to go out for lunch together if we can.

So, the farm shop/ cafe was very nice - all light and airy barn-style building, chickens and goats wandering the fields, speciality foods in the shop and a delicious selection of breakfast, luncheon and cakey stuff on offer (cooked in an open plan kitchen so you could see what was going on) of which I especially enjoyed the nutty, fruity, seedy flapjack so much that tomorrow I am going to bake some nutty, fruity, seedy flapjacks of my own.

And we got to chatting about what kind of business we would run if we were going to run a business. Vegetarian cafe/ bakery seemed a good choice for us, we thought, given we both enjoy cooking and baking and eating and I am a vegetarian and ne'er a sausage shall inveigle its way onto any potential menu we might be considering. And even though carnivores might say, 'well, that seems a bit unfair, not offering a meat option,' I would say 'Beefeater' and point them in the opposite direction, because my research into vegetarian eating places in Kent has proven they are very few and far between and what a lot of meat-eaters fail to understand is that some of us vegetarians don't eat meat for ethical reasons. And yes, I shall remain picky on this point.

So, enflamed with a sudden urge to open a vegetarian eatery, Andy and I have decided to start some research because even if it never happens, it will taste good with whilst we do it. Research will take the form of a) visiting a variety of vegetarian establishments and making covert notes on their menus, decor, ambience and napkin colours b) trying out new recipes on unsuspecting family and friends whom we shall lure round here with a cheery, 'Come to supper on Saturday! There will be pudding!' and c) playing games of 'What If..?' in order to test the viability of any business plans e.g what if we rented a premises for a year? Would we end up living in a tent by Christmas eating gravel? Or 'What if someone choked on a carrot? Can either of us perform the Heimlich manoeuvre?' Or 'What if we had an open plan kitchen, too; would people be entertained by watching Andy flinging flour hither and thither (also known as 'making bread).

I have already thought of a good name for our business, but Andy isn't convinced. He thinks it might confuse some people and I say only if they are very dense, like a bread pudding, so the potential name is going off for market research to some friends couple whom we can trust to be impartial in their feedback. And not because they are a vegetarian and a vegan.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

*£?!!*%£! @$*!*&^!

'We sense you are feeling a tad fraught,' says Primrose. She has appeared from the garden carrying a sprig of rosemary to rub on my steaming temples. Daisy is in hot pursuit carrying a bay leaf in case the rosemary doesn't work though what she thinks she's going to do with a bay leaf to ease my fraughtness I do not care to ask.

'Stressy morning?' says Daisy.
'A bit,' I say. 'And watch where you're waving that bay leaf, will you? Sharp edges, and all that.'
'Sorry,' says Daisy. 'Would it help to talk about it? Your stressy morning, not the bay leaf. I mean, bay leaves are just as they are really, aren't they. About this big and that green and a bit on the chewy side if you happen to leave one in your lasagne...'

'ALL RIGHT!' I say, adding stress to the ALL and stress to the RIGHT because I have stress aplenty and it has to go somewhere. 'Now, I feel I need to have a rant, so if you two value your hearing and your lives, can I suggest you stand well back and maybe put on some protective overalls?'

'We'll do better than that,' says Primrose. 'We'll just set up these two deckchairs just here in the sunshine, open the thermos of soup and unpack the sandwiches, and away you go with your rant.'
'This is going to be better than watching the telly,' says Daisy, only getting slightly tangled in her deckchair. She sorts herself out, tucks a blanket around her legs and accepts the proffered sandwich from Primrose.

'Snail and Marmite,' says Primrose.
'Yum!' says Daisy.
'Do carry on,' says Primrose.
'Why, thank you,' says I.

'Right, so today I thought, I've got a spare ten minutes. I'll sort out my car insurance which is due for renewal at the end of the week. I've already found and saved the best quotation. All I need to do is pop on the interwebbly, accept the the into the account of my old insurance company and cancel the done....bish, bash, bosh!'

'Sounds very straightforward,' says Daisy.
'You'd have thought so, wouldn't you?' says I. 'You have a piece of something hanging from your beak, by the way.'
Daisy sucks up whatever it is that is a-dangling.

'So I retrieve quote...easy...check premium...easy...receive confirmation e-mail...and I am ahead of my ten minutes time slot. Might even get it done in seven minutes, I think.'

'I am guessing,' says Primrose, 'that some trouble is looming just about...NOW!'

'You guess right,' I say. 'For I next tried to log onto my old insurance company website. Now, I've had trouble with this before. It is a difficult site to log on to.'
'Couldn't you phone them?' says Primrose. 'Grass roll with maggot and apple pickle?'
'No thanks,' I say. 'Well, I couldn't phone them because they are an internet-only-unless -you've-had-a -crash company, and as I hadn't had a crash, I had to cancel the policy on-line. I tried to log in. Once, twice....eight times. No luck. Wasn't having it. Then I tried various permutations of upper and lower case letters with my password, even though I KNEW the one I put in the first eight times was correct because I am very CAREFUL about writing these things down and I knew I was not WRONG. I tried and tried and tried but I still couldn't log in. I even thought about going and having a crash so I could phone them.'
'I bet by now you were thinking there was some kind of conspiracy going on,' says Primrose. 'I bet by now you were thinking, 'They are making it difficult for me to log in and cancel my policy renewal so they can steal next year's premium from my bank account 'accidentally' and then it would take you eight months of fruitless wrangling to get your money back from them.'
'That's EXACTLY what I was thinking!' I say. 'How did you know?'
'It's uncanny, isn't it?' says Primrose. 'Like our minds our inextricably linked via the wonders of creative media.'
'Anyway,' says I, 'I then tried logging in using my policy number, date of birth and address. And this stupid message came up saying I didn't exist! That they had no record of such a policy number. Well, they faffing well did because it was sitting right in front of me on the email they had sent me saying my policy was due for renewal. So I tried again, several times. I was 'ggrrrrrrring' a bit by now...'

'I can imagine,' says Daisy. 'Are you sure you wouldn't like a bay leaf?'
'Positive,' I say. 'So next I thought, right, I'll try getting through on my i-pad. You see - irrational thought. Why would the type of computing device I was using make any difference? Anyway, the i-pad was no more successful. So I decided I'd have to change my password.'
'What did you change it to?' says Primrose.
'Bl**dy Bureaucracy,' I say. 'Only it rejected that for having too many letters, so I chose 'leaving' instead.'
'And did that work?' says Daisy.
'After about 5 minutes, yes. It got me into my account,' I say. 'And a message popped up saying 'Welcome! It's time to renew your policy!' and I thought, like heck it is. And I went straight for 'Cancel Policy.'
'I am sensing the story doesn't end here,' says Primrose.
'You sense correctly,' I say. 'Because then I got a series of steps to wade through starting with 'We're sorry you are leaving us,' to 'Can you tell us why you are leaving?' to 'Are you sure?' to 'What can we do to get you to stay?' and nowhere on those options were the answers 'Because your website is inaccessible,' or 'Because you have made a simple job very complex, ' or 'Because I think you are on some scam to steal next year's premiums' or 'Give me free insurance for a year,' so I bashed my way through them until I got to 'Proceed' and then...the internet crashed and I had to start all over again.'

'Coooo!' say the hens.

'And this ten minute job took how long?' says Primrose.
'An hour and a half,' I say.
'But is it all sorted now?' says Daisy.
'It is,' says I. 'For another year.'
'How about getting a bicycle?' says Primrose.
'Do you know,' I say. 'I think that might be a pretty good idea.'

Monday, 18 February 2013

Book Recommendations

I have read two books this week (and yes,okay, they are new books that I have acquired since the Great Book Back Log of a couple of weeks ago, but one was a must-have book by a favourite writer purchased with the remains of a Waterstones voucher received for Christmas, and the other was a Valentine's gift).

So, firstly I read, and wholeheartedly recommend 'Toby's Room' by Pat Barker. Pat Barker has such a delicious simplicity about her writing, such an ease with which she expresses herself, that I sometimes wish I could write like her. But I can't imagine Pat Barker writing about characters like Nearly King Jimbo and mad bonkers chickens any more than I would enjoy writing about World War I, so I shall continue to admire her writing, read and enjoy her writing and stick to my own style.

And the book I have just this minute finished is 'Pirates in an Adventure with the Romantics' the fifth in the 'Pirates in an Adventure with...' series by Gideon Defoe. Hilarious, laugh-out-loud, slap my thigh and call me parrot escapism. Guaranteed to brighten up the gloomiest of days. I am hoping this series will run like the music album series 'Now That's What I Call Music...' (I have the very first one from 1980 - whatever it was when they first started) because I think it's now up to over 100 and I am more than happy to read more than 100 assorted adventures with pirates, so keep 'em rolling Mr Defoe!

And now I am about to start the latest Paul Torday, which again was a Valentine gift and doesn't count in the Great Book Back Log.

Corr, I love reading!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Looking Backwards, Looking Forwards

There is a saying that you shouldn't waste time looking backwards because you might trip over what is in front of you.

Yet sometimes it is good to look back. Like this morning. Chocolate cake for breakfast. Heather's birthday. (And don't worry...for 'tis a well known fact that cake eaten before 9 a.m is far less calorific than cake eaten at any other part of the day.)

25 years ago today, it was lovely and sunny, just as it is today. More daffodils out, though. And less frost. But still sunny. Heather born on a sunny day. And on this sunny birthday we had birthday cake for breakfast and she went off to London to meet up with four of her friends that she has kept in touch with from university, for a sunny birthday gallivanting day out with probably more cake.

Yesterday, I met up with three of my old friends, for a girly lunch. One is a friendship from the start of primary school (nearly 43 years,....eeek!), and the others are friendships from secondary school (36 years - almost as eeek! But not as quite.) We were a gang of four then, only two months of time separating the oldest from the youngest, and all different, but the hours flew by as we chatted about our pasts and presents and futures. Three of us have children, two of us are grannies. Three of us are carrying too much weight, but the slim jim carries more wrinkles. One of us no longer dyes our hair, one of us doesn't have to dye our hair. One of us has been married twice, one of us has never married. All of us are employed and have houses though only one of us is mortgage-free.

One of us has just bought a second house; one has a campervan. One has chickens and bees, one of us has a dog, we all have cats. Two like coffee, two like tea. One is venturing into teeth implants. Two have degrees. One of us is starting a new job tomorrow. One of us has a weird lodger. One of us is thinking of starting a business. Three of us still live in Kent and one has ventured to Surrey. One is vegetarian, one is bi-polar, we all like going to the theatre. We all feel our 50ths looming in a couple of years' time, but we all laugh about.

I imagine Heather being with her friends in 25 years, sharing the same reminiscences. Only their experiences will be broader and bolder because it is the way the world is nowadays. Young people adventure more; the opportunities are more frequent and the expectations are there. A big world seems smaller because of transport and the internet and equality. Young people seem to rush forward where their parents never feared to tread.

Andy and I went for a walk in the park this morning. Glorious weather, frost and mist across the acres, trees sporting embryos of fat green buds, sunshine willing the cold earth to warm up and wake up. Dogs racing each other like it was the first day of the first ever Spring EVER and needed celebrating as such with barking and leaping and scurrying and tail-wagging!

We talked about what we are going to do with our future, which of course starts today. We talked about why we are so fearful of taking risks. We talked about what we want to do. An acre of land with chickens and vegetables and fruit trees? A bakery? A garden centre/ cafe/ craft centre? Run creative writing holidays? Run star gazing holidays? Testing out little ideas. Testing out the idea of taking a risk.

And all the while the sun shone and it is Heather's birthday. Having a child is a risk, and it's one most people barely think about. Christopher will be 27 next month. Two children I have, two risks I have taken, and they've both turned out well.

Writing today. Sunshine coming through the window warming my back and cheering my spirit.

Let's take a risk.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Breadmaking - the homeward run

And finally, part 3 in the whole Breadmaking malarkey...

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Part two of the Experiment in Breadmaking.

I apologise in advance for the mention of anal glands...

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Artistic Trauma

Well, I've had a traumatic afternoon. After suffering genuine appallment (new word -it means 'Flippin' heck - how much???) at the cost of decent Valentine cards, I decided I would craft my own for Andy. What could be nicer, I thought, than a hand-made with love token of adoration for my lovely hubbie? Not the act of a cheapskate at all.

So, having spent the morning tutoring (and dealing with a very tetchy young man who is attempting to give up smoking cold turkey - no, no, he isn't actually smoking cold turkey; that would be weirdness beyond belief. You know jolly well what I mean, so behave, will you?) I came home, had a quick lunch of soup and toast and wafted in an artistic manner to my little room to create a card before Andy got home.

My thought that this activity would be a doddle was clearly VERY misguided, because an hour later, all I had managed to gather was a piece of card, an envelope, an assorted selection of red and pink papers (smooth and textured), some ribbon, some of those glue spot thingies, and a massive dollop of indecision. I was cutting out things, arranging them, rearranging them, huffing and puffing and umming and aahhing, and Pandora wasn't helping because she kept stomping over my creative mess, I mean, space, and bits of stuff were flying all over the shop. And all in all, this card-making malarkey for my beloved wasn't being the calming, meditative experience I had imagined on my drive home from work.

I was at the point of giving up, of capitulating to the pressures of commercialism aka 'go and buy one - it'll be a lot easier' - when I happened to glance out of the window and...INSPIRATION!

Of course, I can't reveal the extent of the inspiration, because Andy might read this and I don't want to spoil what little moment of awe this card might elicit, but suffice it to say that once I had the idea, the card came together really quickly and wasn't the disaster I saw looming over the horizon a mere half hour before.

On another matter, and after many technical glitches, the first section of Experiments in Bread Making has been uploaded to YouTube if you fancy a bit of a diversion. If you type 'Experiments in Bread Making' into the YouTube search engine it will be the first clip to come up, and there we shall be in all our Johnny and Fanny glory....oooer, Missus!

(Andy will add a link via a comment to this blog entry. I would do it myself, but I am technically inept and will make a complete piggies ear out of the operation.)

Click here for the video!

Monday, 11 February 2013

My Grandmother Was a Pope

I mention this because she was ('twas her family name) and the job of Pope appears to be going, and I thought, as the granddaughter of a Pope I might apply.

Several things could preclude my application. They are:

a) I am not a Catholic, but I am thinking that in this world of equality, this shouldn't matter.

b) I am a girlie, although this didn't stop Pope Joan. If you don't know the story of Pope Joan, she was a girlie, too, who, by various acts of fate i.e she was mistaken for a boy, was made Pope, and wasn't discovered to be non-Pope material aka a girlie until she gave birth to a baby boy during a ceremonial procession, which was a bit of a giveaway (the giving birth, not the taking part in a procession). And to stop such mistakes recurring, the papal throne had a hole drilled in the seat so officials could peep up the Pope's robes to check his tackle was all present and correct in a sausage and meatballs kind of way. It doesn't sound like very seemly behaviour to me. There will be no such malarkey if I get to be Pope. People will know I am a girlie because I shall make cakes and cuddle a kitten.

c) I can't speak Latin. But then who does these days?

d) I can't wear white. Ever since my hair lost its colour, white makes me look washed out. Perhaps the Papal robes can be changed to a nice burgundy maybe. Or purple. Or turquoise for the summer. But not green or yellow. Unless I am to look like a daffodil.

e) I don't do hats. I have a tried to do hats, but hats and I don't get on. My head is too wrong for hats. I remember going on a hat shopping trip with my sister years ago. We went into a department store - I was around 18, she was around 13, and we scooted around the hat department taking hats off stands and trying them on, and then putting them back on the stands. And hot on our heels was a shop assistant who made a point of rearranging the hats we had just tried on by moving them literally half an inch from the position from where we had replaced them on their stands. We cottoned on pretty quickly to her fussing and stalking malarkey and finished our trip by just moving the hats without even TRYING THEM ON! Such renegades!

f) I might cause a few ructions by endorsing birth control.

g) Incense makes me cough. I'd use a lavender bags.

That's all I think. So shall I apply? Hmmmm....I'll need to find out the salary, of course, and make sure I get Sundays off, but other than that I think it'd be a great job. God would like a female Pope.

I know she would.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Fat Cats

Only this very morning, Andy and I made a revolutionary discovery regarding the complex field of research into why some people gain weight.

It has NOTHING to do with with the making and eating of jammy lammingtons and double chocolate lammingtons this week. Not has it anything to do with a complete lack of exercise because of the cold 'n' wet 'n' windy weather of the last few days.

No! It's CATS!

You see, Andy was making bread this morning. And he decided to make an instructional video on the making of the bread (more of which later). And I was lurking in the background, mostly watching and sometimes chipping in with an off-camera observation, like 'Is that nice sunflower oil you are using, or horrid olive oil?' and 'Do you wear the flour you've got up the front of your T-shirt for the rest of the day, or do you add it back into the mix?'

It was like Fanny and Johnny Craddock all over again, only funnier and with less make-up.

And during one of the kneading processes I happened to comment on the fact that all three cats were watching the bread-making with interest. (Well, two of them were; one of them was asleep). And Andy said, 'Of course, cats don't knead bread, they knead people,' refering to the feline habit of padding laps with their little feet and going into cat Zen mode. And it was a very short synapse of the brain that took us from kneading bread to make it rise, to cats kneading people and making them rise!!

So we aren't actually little fat puddings of people- we are, in fact, RISING, because our cats are kneading us too much!! And if we stopped them kneading us, we would be as slim as racing snakes (more of which later, also) by the end of the week. But we aren't going to stop the cats kneading us, because it's a cat comfort thing, and to prevent them in their pounding and kneading would be tantamount to animal cruelty, although it would save a few extra holes in jumpers and trouser legs.

Of course, if you don't have any cats and you are carrying a few extra pounds, then you cannot use this as an excuse. If this is the case, you can a) either get over it and carry on the diet and exercising malarkey or b) adopt a cat, let them pad away and continue to eat jammy lammingtons safe in the knowledge they are NOT contributing to weight gain.

So, more on snakes. Today is Chinese New Year's Day Year of the Snake! And I am a Year of the Snake person.
'You don't look like a snake,' says Primrose.
''Unless you are a snake that has swallowed a duvet,' says Daisy.
'I've just explained all that,' I say. 'I am RISING. It's the KNEADING of the CATS.'
'You've eaten a cat??' says Daisy.
'I thought you were vegetarian,' says Primrose.
'I am, ' I say, 'and if you count the cats they are all present and correct. What are you doing in here anyway?'
'Well,' says Daisy,' we heard you were making a video on how to make bread...'
'...and that you are going to publish it later on the blog,' says Primrose.
'...which means you are going public with your presentation,' says Daisy.
'Media tarts,' says Primrose.
'I beg your pardon?!' says I. 'This has nothing to do with Andy and I being discovered as a natural comedy double act and being given a prime time radio show. This is to do with showing people how easy it is to make bread in a humorous way. And to be quite honest,' I plough on, before the hens can butt in with more veiled insults, 'with all this ready meal horse lasagne business going on, the more people can be encouraged to make their own food so they know what's actually in it, the better, don't you think?'

The hens give this idea due consideration for all of, oh, three seconds.

'We suppose so,' they say.
'But,' adds Daisy, 'do you know what's in the bread flour you use?'
'Ha!' says Primrose. 'Could be anything, couldn't it? Ground beetles. Sieved chihuahua. Dust!'

'Oh, for goodness' sake,' I say. 'I think it is probably wheat. In fact, I am certain it's wheat. And until we are in a position to grow, harvest and mill our own wheat, then I am going to have to trust that the bag of flour from Sainsbugs, labelled flour and looking floury like flour is, in fact, flour. I think if it was beetles, chihuahua or dust then the bread would come out a bit funny, don't you think? And you still haven't explained why you're here.'

'Ah,' says Daisy. 'We have come to offer our services as your media agents. Here's our card.'

And she hands me a blank piece of cardboard.

'There's nothing on this card,' says I. 'It's blank.'
'Sort of reflects your attempts at media stardom, doesn't it?' says Primrose. 'Ahahahahahahahaha!'

'Oooh,' I say. 'Someone had nails for breakfast.'

'Anyway,' say the hens. 'If you ever need professional publicists, let us know. And we'll fill in the card.'

And off they trot into the garden.

And you, dear readers, can judge our worth as media presenters later on, when the final video is published. Watch this space! (Well, not this'll be another space...on another blog page....oh, shut up, Denise!)

Friday, 8 February 2013

Buses, Cabbage and Chickens

Today's blog is brought to you via the medium of grumpy granny post-bus journey anti-stress hen cabbage therapy.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Archaeology Digs!

Did you see the programme on Richard III and the whole finding him and digging him up from under the car park malarkey? Fascinating stuff. Some people at MMM ( and I mention no names here, but it wasn't me m'lud) were rather disparaging of the woman who instigated the search in the first place, hinting that they thought she was a bit  crazy/ obsessed/ hysterical, and all over a pile of bones, but I disagreed. I thought how fabulous it must be to have such a passion and a drive to achieve such an unlikely goal. And I fully understood her emotional state, and her reasoning behind her actions. And good for her!

Anyway, I wandered into the garden this afternoon after tutoring, and almost fell down another hole. Professors Primrose and Daisy (as they now insist upon being called) have adopted the art of archaeological digging as their latest best hobby, and it is making for dangerous venturing into the garden to retrieve a sprig or two of rosemary, or a bay leaf for example.

'What is this hole doing here?' I say, hauling myself from its depths, which luckily, because of the vertically challenged nature of the hens, is only six inches deep.

'It's not a hole,' says Primrose. 'It is a trench. And please remove your big clod-hopper feet. You may be treading on something of great historical significance.'
I check the bottom of my wellies - there are three pebbles stuck at various points in the treads, and something that looks suspiciously like a dollop of chicken poop.
'So, have you found anything of 'historical significance' today?' I say.
Daisy gives me a bit of a look. 'I don't think there's any need for the extraneous quotation marks,' she says. 'They suggest you are being a tad sarcastic about our digging efforts.'
'Oooh no,' I say. 'Sarcastic? Moi? After yesterday's find of William the Conqueror's willow
twig finger?How can you suggest such a thing?'

'Ignore her,' says Primrose. 'She'll be sorry when we find a rare Roman baths, or a Saxon burial mound under the patio.'
'Ha!' I say. 'What you fail to understand is that since we have lived here, this garden has undergone a shed removal, two fence shiftings,  a herb garden construction, a putting up, a taking down and a putting up of a greenhouse, a compost heap, various growings of vegetable and flower, two tree plantings and the scratching and pecking ministrations of, including your good selves, seven chickens. And if anything was going to be found, don't you think it would have been found by now?'

The chickens give this idea all of three seconds of thought.
'No,' they say in unison.
'And,' continues Primrose, 'what you fail to understand is that you are incredibly unobservant. You need a chicken's eye to see the detail of an archaeological dog...I mean, dig.'

'At least I can type accurately,' I say.
'Sid off,' says Primrose.
'I can see what's going on in our little garden,' I say.
'Oh really?' says Daisy. 'So what happened on 2nd February, then?'

I cast my mind back to last Saturday. Nothing springs to mind, so I shrug my shoulders.

'It was Groundhog Day,' says Daisy, with more than a single note of triumph in her voice. 'And Primrose and I were hosts to the International Groundhog Convention 2013. Last Saturday, there were exactly 312 groundhogs camping in this very garden for the whole weekend. They arrived Friday night for the welcome Tequila and Baked Potato Barbecue Hoe-Down. They were all upbefore dawn on Saturday for the traditional Groundhog weather forecast, followed by Tai Chi work out. We took them into the park for a picnic party, then back here for a funfair in the evening. And then on Sunday we had a Ging-gang Goolie breakfast bonfire and sing-a-long before they all went home. All 312 of them. And,' she finished, 'you didn't notice a thing!'

'Unobservant,' says Primrose.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Why, oh, why, oh why?

I have some questions for you today.

Firstly, why am I even contemplating buying more books when, since Christmas, I have started reading no less than SIX novels and only just today finished one of them? Currently on the go I have ( in no particular order of preference):
1) Nightingale Wood by Stella Gibbons (very entertaining in a dry, 1950s kind of way)
2) Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (never read anything by her before, probably won't bother again)
3) The Red House by Mark Haddon (oddly transfixing but only when in the mood to be oddly transfixed)
4) Rachel's Holiday by Marian Keyes (disappointingly predictable and glad I didn't spend money on it but got it as free e-book)
5) Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson (jury out at the mo)

...and finished today...

6) Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson, which was really good once I had sorted out the generations of family members amongst whom the plot skips like a crazy bug.

Actually, I have started and completed one entire novel since Christmas, which is The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce which was absolutely delightful in an inspiring, funny and thought-provoking way,and I therefore urge you to read it if you can.

I think my random reading is becoming out of control from some reason that is beyond me. I have always had two books on the go at any one time, occasionally three, because I think you have to read to suit your mood, but six???

Two under the bed, two in my writing room, one in the living room, one in the kitchen. Crazy. I am banning myself from starting any more books until I am down to my last two. Actually, I might delete the Marian Keyes. Save me the effort of struggling to the end and trying to overcome my instant dislike of the heroine of the piece.

Question number two - why is it that dead pig can be known as ham, pork, bacon or gammon, dead cow can be known as beef or steak and dead sheep can be known as mutton or lamb whilst dead birds are known as just chicken, duck or goose? Is it that birds are too small, too insignificant to be known by a selection of post-mortem nomenclatures?

Thirdly, why are cats the most aesthetically perfect creatures on the planet? And I include in this cats of all form - tiger, lion, panther, leopard etc.

Fourthly, how does one convince a pair of excitable hens that the bony-like structure they have discovered in their back garden archaeological dig (inspired by the discovery of Richard III under a car park in Leicestershire) is not actually the finger of William the Conqueror but, in fact, a knobbly twig from the willow arch? They are insisting they are going to dig until they find the remains of someone famous or a huge pot of gold. I have warned them not to get their hopes up too high, but I don't really want to discourage them from their new-found hobby because a) it keeps them out of mischief and b)their digging has actually improved the appearance of the garden.

Fifthly, why is it so difficult to make that first cut into a new piece of fabric? I have in mind to make a fabric collage inspired by a particularly magnificent cockerel (named Lady Grey, but that's a whole other story) belonging to Vera and Lester in France. I have acquired a selection of silk fabric in glorious shades of greys and reds to match his feathers, I have fiddled about making mock up feathers, I have decided upon chiffon for his bum feathers (he is a fluffy bottomed Buff Orpington type) and set aside embroidery cottons with which to sew his comb and feet, but I cannot yet quite bring myself to set about the fabric with the scissors.

And finally...

...why is Pandora sitting on the arm of the sofa, right now, right this minute, staring at me like that?

Sunday, 3 February 2013


Andy said to me this morning, 'Are we boring?' He seemed worried by this probability.
'How do you mean?' said I, not worried by this probability, because I have been doing Maths tutoring all week and I don't get probabilities (I mean, something is either probable or not, isn't it, so by my reckoning the probability of everything is half) so have decided not to worry about them.
'Well,' said Andy, 'boring in that we seem quite happy to do nothing at the weekend.'

Of course, I knew what he meant. He meant that we aren't the type of people who have their weekends mapped out and filled to the brim with fulfilling activities that mean every waking hour is crammed with meaningful and useful occupation, and we reach Sunday evening by flopping on the sofa and going, 'Well, that was 48 hours gainfully employed. We are now better people than we were on Friday night.'

And by that score, then yes, we are boring people.

The trouble is, is that we are both home bodies. And we both have hobbies that require indoorness, like reading, writing, drawing (did you see the new header picture? Springtime is a-coming!), knitting, sewing, cat-dancing (me), computer gaming (Andy), baking and cooking and listening to the radio.

We like walking in the park. But today it was too cold and windy. And we like gardening. But today it was too cold and windy (although I did nip out the front and prune the oregano plants, which are sprouting anew for 2013 - told you Springtime is a-coming.)

And sometimes we fantasise about being 'interesting people' who do 'spontaneous things', like leaping out of bed at 6 on Saturday morning and saying, 'Let's just get in the car and drive to Suffolk, book into a B&B, and then hike around the area for 5 hours before buying an impromptu antique at an auction, then travelling on to Norfolk and performing some random street theatre in the market square, then nipping back to the B&B for a quick bite to eat of something exotic we have never tried before, then nipping to the local pub to take it by storm with our Abba karaoke act, then on Sunday travel home in order to take part in a triathlon in the park in our shorts and T-shirts even though it is sleeting and the wind will give us both earache.'

No, I am afraid we are not that interesting. I don't even own a pair of shorts.

One day we might be. (Except for the shorts.)

But not today.

Today we are boring. And it has been jolly nice.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Kitten's Got Talent - or Probably Not

Well, I threatened a video of Pandora and me doing a dance rehearsal, and here it is.

Abandon hope all ye who enter...

Friday, 1 February 2013

Laugh or Cry?

Well, I have been in school all day, tutoring and enjoying myself enormously. The intensity of tutoring means that one does feel very tired after a full day, and thus felt I as I left today. But it was okay because I had achieved progress with my students including counselling one lad who was feeling anxious because his relationship with his girlfriend had run its course and he wanted to call it a day; his method was to a) text her and end it or b) just run off. I told him to man up, tell her face to face and take the fallout on his little spotty chin.

So, on the way home I thought, 'I'll pop into Sainsbugs and get a magazine to flollop on the sofa with this evening. And maybe some cooking apples to make a crumble, because we haven't had a pudding in AGES.' (Which, now I think about it isn't strictly true, because we had raspberry cheesecake last Saturday but hey, a week is a long time in the life of a mayfly.)

Into Sainsbugs I went. I picked up a few other bits 'n' bobs, too - milk, a cabbage for the chickens, some Gouda, aforesaid apples and magazine, some soup on special offer - and I was VERY GOOD because I ignored the chocolate aisle and the cake aisle, even though I thought I might like a bit o'chocolate to nibble on the way home.

Instead, because I hadn't really had lunch beyond a banana and a couple of oatcakes and was feeling a bit peckish, I bought a packet of cherry tomatoes. And in the car I opened the packet of cherry tomatoes and...

...boooff! The packet burst in quite spectacular fashion sending what seemed like hundreds of tomatoes ricocheting all over my little car!

Well, if it had been a Friday before Christmas, when I was still a full-time stressed out classroom teacher I probably would have cried. Actually, I WOULD have cried AND gone back into Sainsbugs AND bought 10 bars of chocolate AND a couple of boxes of chocolate eclairs, AND I would have slumped by a checkout and stuffed them all in my face, crying 'Effing tomatoes!' until I was sick on the little bucket they leave by the tills for people to drop receipts in.

But as it was, because I am under pas de stress, I laughed! In order to retrieve the escapee salad, I had to upend myself into the passenger footwell and hang pretty much upside down, displaying my not inconsiderable bottom to all in the car park. And because I didn't have a receptacle in which to place the tomatoes, I ended up balancing them in various nooks and crannies on the dashboard, and in the gearstick thingy and the cup holders. Some decorate their cars with flowers and furry toys - I have tomatoes!

And then I came home and had a bit of a face off with Primrose who is getting very possessive about me collecting eggs from the pod, so much so that it takes more than a cabbage to distract her, and we both nearly ended up, feather and wellies, on our bottoms in the mud!

But I wouldn't have minded. I would have laughed!